The Wichita Heights basketball programs entered the Class 6A Title game with matching records and identical goals, but with slightly different motivations.
The boys were two-time defending champions seeking a three-peat. The girls were trying to get back to the top after a three year hiatus.
Both teams accomplished their missions on Saturday.
The boys faced a Blue Valley Northwest team that they handled in the final last year by 16 points, but the Huskies would put up a much stiffer battle this time around in a 58-51 win.
“We told the kids before the game, this is not about winning three in a row, this is about 2011,” Heights Head Coach Joe Auer said.
The Huskies showed early that 2011 would not be a repeat of 2010 as they fought back from an eight-point first-quarter deficit to only trail by four after the first quarter. Heights extended back out an eight-point lead at the break, 24-16.
The first half was a defensive struggle as both teams shot an anemic 37-percent from the field.
Out of the break, Blue Valley Northwest cut Heights’ lead to five after three minutes, and then battled to a 43-43 tie at the 3:38 mark of the fourth quarter.
The Huskies had luck defensively because they frustrated Heights star Perry Ellis all night, but the Falcons would find a way to involve their star late.
“I thought they showed a lot of character late,” Auer said. “We finally got the ball back into Perry late. They did a great job of surrounding him and taking him out of the game.”
Ellis finished with nine points and eight boards taking a back seat to Terrance Moore and Evan Wessel on the offensive stat sheet. Moore led all scorers with 17 points and Wessel poured in 15 of his own.
There was pressure on this team to succeed after the football, wrestling, girls basketball and bowling teams all won titles for Heights this year.
“There is a lot of pressure, but that’s a good kind of pressure,” Wessel said.
Winning begets winning according to Auer.
“Winning, they say, is contagious and I guess we’re proof positive this year,” Auer said.
Heights girls get long-awaited title
The girls’ team had a much tighter affair to deal with against the Shawnee Mission West Vikings, but used a last-second layup to win.
Heights’ girls looked to be on the way icing the game after a layup by Arkansas-bound Jhasmin Bowen made it a 12-points Falcon lead at 36-24 with 11 seconds to go in the third quarter.
The Vikings whittled that lead all the way to a 51-51 tie with 10 seconds left in the game.
Heights then took a timeout to draw up one last play to go for the title.
The Falcons drew the play up for Bowen or Mary Sims to take the shot, but the Viking defense would dictate a change of plans.
“My goal was to keep my man away from Jhasmin because we were supposed to get the ball to Jhasmin,” Allegria Chisom said. “It didn’t happen that way. My man happened to come up and stop Mary with the ball, so she dumped it down to me for the basket.”
Chisom’s layup came as time was expiring for the win.
For Pulliam, he knew exactly who he wanted making the make-or-break decision.
“When we needed to make a play we came up big and we made plays,” Pulliam said. “And today when it all came down to it and Mary Sims had to make a play, I put the ball in her hands and she made a play.”
Chisom’s basket set off a celebration that was four years in the making.
“I didn’t feel anything,” Chisom said of her feelings after the basket. “My mind went blank, my body started shaking. I was just excited and amazed.”
Bowen led the Falcons with 23 points. Chisom and Kaitlyn Palmer had 10 points each. Sims had six assists, but none bigger than the one that landed in the hands of Chisom at the end.
There was a lot of pressure on this team as the last Heights girls senior class not to win a state title was the Class of 2001.
It was a question that the Falcons had to endure all season long.
“For some reason we kept getting the question asked to us ‘are you guys going to win this year?’,” Chisom said. “We were tired of answering the question, so we were just like, ‘come to the game and you’ll find out’.”
Chisom and the Falcons emphatically answered that question as the first Class 6A girls team to ever go undefeated.
Boys Third Place Game: Olathe East 64, Dodge City 63
The Red Demons just missed playing for a state title with a close loss on Friday in the semifinals. On Saturday they just missed a third-place finish in a 64-63 loss to Olathe East.
The Hawks took care of business from the free throw line in the win with the last 10 points for the Hawks coming from the free throw line.
Benito Sotelo went 6-for-7 from three-point land for 26 points in the Dodge City loss. Blaine Miller led Olathe East with 21 points and eight rebounds. Tyler Kalinoski had 17 points and nine assists in the win.
Girls Third Place Game: Olathe East 40, Washburn Rural 26
The Hawks were down four after the first quarter, but outscored the Junior Blues 31-13 over the final three periods to claim the third-place trophy. Sanayika Shields led the Hawks with a double-double of 10 points and 10 boards. Katlyn Aschenbrenner led the Junior Blues with 12 points in the loss.